Since 2002 five Spider-Man films have made their way to the big screen, starting with Sam Raimi’s trilogy, starring Toby Maguire. Unfortunately, the third film in the series wasn’t well respected, despite being the most successful at the box office. The Amazing Spider-Man films (starring Andrew Garfield) promised to be true to the character of Peter Parker and to a degree they were. The comical quips were there but so was the heavy brooding that had burdened Maguire’s performance. It didn’t help that the scripts for The Amazing Spider-Man series involved an unimaginative retelling of the Spider-Man origin story. So what’s different with the sixth Spider-Man film, starring Tom Holland? Marvel got their baby back.
After Sony, who own the rights to Spider-Man, made a deal with Marvel Studios, a beautiful friendship was formed that allowed Marvel to use the character in the MCU. Marvel actually rewrote the script for Captain America: Civil War only weeks prior to filming to introduce this new Spider-Man to audiences; the cameo resulted in one of the stand out moments of the film and eased audiences into what they could expect when Spider-Man gets the full Marvel treatment in his own film.
Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place directly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, where audiences saw Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) drafted into The Avengers to help Team Stark stop Team Cap. Months later and Peter Parker hasn’t heard anything from the Avengers, despite his attempts at leaving messages with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) chauffeur and unwilling contact to the teenager.
Spider-Man has occasionally had a dark history, but it feels as though Holland isn’t in a rush to explore that side of Peter Parker. Instead, he’s willing to explore what Peter Parker is like in his teenage years; bringing a perfect youth and enthusiasm to the role. Previous films were in too much of a hurry to get to pivotal moments in Spider-Man’s history and this made the character grow up too quickly. This is a Peter Parker that we are only just getting to know.
In other films of the superhero genre a great villain can almost always overshadow the hero. However, Michael Keaton’s casting as Adrian Toomes, who becomes ‘The Vulture’, is not only brilliant for the film, it’s brilliant for the whole MCU. Keaton portrays Toomes as a relatable character, with a family, work commitments and people depending on him. He doesn’t have any other agenda besides keeping a roof over the head of his family; things such as world domination are far from his desires. Toomes constructs a suit that allows him to steal more alien technology to build weapons and sell to criminals. When suited up, Toomes is really menacing, which emphasises a different class of villain from what Spider-Man has previously confronted. However, it’s a credit to Keaton’s performance that Toomes becomes a real threat to Peter without The Vulture tech. It’s the first time the audience sees Peter’s realisation that he may be in over his head.
Spider-Man’s new suit was too similar to Iron Man’s; it even has an on-board computer that Peter names Karen to help him very much the same way that J.A.R.V.I.S. helped Tony (interestingly the voice of Karen is played by Jennifer Connelly, who is married to Paul Bethany, the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S). Spider-Man never gets to grips with the new upgrade and isn’t a big fan himself, a possible reference to trying to keep things simple, which recurs throughout the film.
The script and pace at times also felt a little clunky, but this doesn’t stop the film feeling fresh and vibrant. Gone is the origin story which the audience is already trusted to know, along with the “With great power, comes great responsibility” ethos, a bold move by director Jon Watts as this has been present in pretty much all Spider-Man incarnations. Instead, a John Hughes-esque sense of teenage life parallels learning to be a superhero.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is very much self-contained to New York and a brief trip to Washington, but it is aware of the MCU universe that it shares. The Avengers are referenced throughout the film and the most notable inclusion is characters from Iron Man. However, appearances from Tony Stark don’t take anything away from Peter’s story; Stark doesn’t overstay his welcome, instead acting as a mentor to Peter.
It’s interesting to see that when Peter is trying to be an Avenger, he fails at whatever he’s trying to accomplish. It’s clear to everyone except himself that he‘s taking on too much. This Spidey is at times clumsy and irresponsible, not taking his actions into consideration. However, when he’s just himself helping out the “little guy” he excels. Marvel have done an amazing job and made Spider-Man spectacular again.